Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after experiencing severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It’s normal for a mind and body to be in a state of shock after a specific situation. Still, this rational response can advance to PTSD when the nervous system gets “stuck” in the situation.
In one major study performed to 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 13.5% were screened positive for PTSD. Also, 15% of the 2.7 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War were diagnosed with PTSD. New findings show that approximately 271,000 Vietnam veterans still suffer from PTSD and other major depressive disorders, which calls for awareness of the ongoing need to provide mental health services for veterans after being discharged from the military.
Mobilization and immobilization are the two automatic responses of the nervous system to stressful events. In mobilization, your body responds in a fight-or-flight method. A person’s heart dramatically pounds faster, blood pressure rises, and muscles tighten, increasing someone’s strength and reaction speed. When the “need to survive” eventually passes, the body’s response to the situation will return to normal.
On the other hand, immobilization occurs when someone is still incapable to recover from the afflictions brought by the trauma and has already caused extreme emotional distress to the person itself. Hence, making the body unable to return to its normal state. This is what you call PTSD. Recovering from PTSD involves transitioning out of the mental and emotional war zone; someone is still living in and overcoming the feeling of “unstuck.” What’s worse is that symptoms in PTSD usually arise for months or even years after a veteran has returned from deployment.
A veteran diagnosed with PTSD experiences recurrent, intrusive reminders of the traumatic event and leaves them a feeling of a traumatic event happening once again. Panic attacks, uncontrollable shaking, and heart palpitations are inevitable. A veteran with PTSD may also exceptionally avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event.
What are the ways that can help Veterans manage their PTSD?
- Get out into nature and get moving.
- Connecting with other veterans facing similar problems can help them feel less isolated and provide useful tips on coping with symptoms and working towards recovery.
- Connecting with civilians can be able to offer support.
- The symptoms of PTSD in veterans can take a toll on overall health, so relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, or yoga may help manage the symptoms.
- Seek professional treatment to help the nervous system become unstuck and move on from the traumatic event
It is important to remember not to take the symptoms personally when helping a veteran with PTSD. At the same time, do not ignore your own needs while prioritizing someone’s needs, as it may eventually lead to burnout. Many veterans with PTSD find it difficult to talk about their experiences, so it is best to give them time and support during these moments.